Updated: Jun 15, 2021
Original article 09-23-2014, Revised 2021
photo by MeewMeew Studios
We know...budgets are HARD! Strategizing the most realistic budget and actually sticking to it is HARD!
But, your wedding planning begins with a BUDGET. We all wish for an unlimited wedding budget so we can incorporate all of the elements we want on our wedding day. You know, everything you just saw on IG and saved to your Pinterest Boards. But, let's face it...this is not realistic for everyone. A budget is the least appealing element of your wedding to confront, but it is the most important. Your budget range will influence what you can and cannot do for your wedding day celebration.
Based on research, the average cost of for a wedding in Hawaii is $32,900 and in California $39,000. While this may get you far in other parts of the USA, it will get you basics in these places.
Before you make any financial commitments, determine the total amount of money you want to spend on your wedding and establish the elements of your wedding that are most important to you both. It is your day, so other people’s opinions should not deter you from doing what is most important to you. Keep in mind that in order to have those important things, it may be necessary to compromise on other areas of your wedding.
While 50% of your budget will go to your venue, food and beverage, and rentals, it is important to prioritize what matters to you most. My experience is that the most important elements of a successful and fun wedding are your guest list, food/beverage, and entertainment. These are the most memorable parts of your wedding and the first things your guests will discuss afterwards. The photography and videography are important because they capture and document the memories and those special moments that you may not have personally witnessed. Your wedding day will seem like a blurry flash of time, so do not dismiss the importance of reliving the documented moments that represent this special day you have been planning and anticipating. Ambience is very important, so be sure to make your event aesthetically pleasing to your guests and the camera. You don’t need to go over the top; there are ways to make your wedding look fabulous without breaking the bank. Colored fabric and lighting will make your event magical, and your wedding coordinator will be your best resource on how to reduce costs and save you money without compromising your vision of your wedding.
We know it's challenging to think of a budget amount for something you know very little about, so here are some secrets to consider:
Many venues and caterers have food and beverage minimums. That does not mean that the food and beverage minimum is the ceiling cost, it means you need to spend at least that much to cover the fee of the venue or use of the caterer.
The photographer and videographer have fees for their services. These fees are not based on the fact that you have 15 guests or 150 guests. The fee is generally the same.
Musicians and DJ's typically charge per hour but have a minimum amount of hours to book their services.
The officiant costs the same whether your wedding is large or intimate.
The guest count affects things like the size of the dance floor, quantity of tables and chairs, size of your tent, amount of lighting, how many servers you need, how many bartenders you need, the amount of food and beverage you need, the number of centerpieces, and the size of your wedding cake.
The flowers you think are local or seasonal may not be local or seasonal for the location of your wedding. For example, while orchids are tropical, they may be ordered from Thailand and not grown on the Big Island. Why? Storms. Poor farming conditions. Not enough supply for the demand. The specific type of orchid you want is not grown on the islands. It may not be the season for that particular orchid. Now, we have pandemic causes for the increase in costs for flowers. This ALL affects your costs and budget.
Printing, invitations, favors, welcome bags/boxes...your guest count will affect the total costs of these items.
The size of your wedding party will increase your floral costs. If you are paying for wedding party apparel, accessories, gifts, and more, these will all affect your costs.
When you purchase your dresses, suits, etc., be sure to calculate costs for alterations.
Those DIY projects cost money. They cost money for the individual items, they cost TIME to create, they cost time and maybe money to get to your venue and set up at your venue. My point is they may not be less expensive than just hiring the professionals in the first place.
Does your venue have additional fee requirements like portable restrooms, electricity, parking and transportation, etc.?
Some times limiting your bar to wine and beer saves you money. It doesn't necessarily cost less than including well and mixed drinks. Your guests will leave your venue to get their desired drinks...we've seen it happen. If you limit your bar in any way, we suggest you offer a cash option for other beverages. Be sure to have enough bartenders for your event (depending on the service you want, 1 bartender per 50 people). The majority of the beverages will be consumed in the first 90 minutes of your event. Guests will place their drinks down somewhere and lose track of them, causing them to get a replacement beverage. We almost always suggest hosting per consumption instead of hourly.
Buffets and Food Stations typically require servers and chefs at each. These will cost you. Plated meals require additional servers. Typically 12 people per server. White glove service costs more.
You are responsible for clean up and trash removal at estate venues. Be sure to add that into your catering bill. They need to stay up to an hour post event to clean up after your guests and remove all garbage from the premises.
Although tradition says that the couple's parents pay for the whole thing, this is frequently untrue for today’s couples. In all likelihood while your parents or other relatives may pay for your wedding or contribute a certain amount to it, our experience is that couples are paying for their own weddings.
According to the Knot, these values are a guide on how your expenses can be allocated. Depending on your priorities, you can allocate from one area to another. Just know that you will need to have a realistic budget, or be prepared to make some changes to your vision.
Reception: Up to 50% of Budget (Venue Fee, Rentals, Specialty Linens, Food/Service, Catering or Service staff, Set up/Clean up, Bar/Bartender, Champagne/Wine, Signature Drinks, Beverages you will provide on your own, Wedding Cake, Cake Knife and Server Set, Cake Topper, Cake Service, Liability Insurance, Doughnuts, Cupcakes, Signage, Specialty Barware, Bar façade, China, Flatware, Lounge furniture, etc.)
Photography and Videography: up to 12% of Budget (Photographer’s Fee/Package, Videographer’s Fee/Package, Additional Prints/Albums/Flash Drives, Wedding Album, High Digital Images, Photo Rights, Photo Booth, Photo Backdrop, Props, etc.)
Attire, Hair and Makeup, Beauty Services: at least 9% of Budget (Bridal Gown, Bride’s Reception Dress, Alterations, Headpiece/Veil, Bride’s Accessories, Shoes, Lingerie/Hosiery/Undergarments, Beauty Services, Groom’s Tuxedo/Suit, Groom’s Accessories, Attendants’ Attire, possibly Attendants' apparel and/or accessories, Manicure)
Flowers/Décor: up to 8% of Budget (Ceremony/Reception Site Decorations, Bouquets for Bride & Attendants, Boutonnieres, Corsages (pin-on or wrist), Centerpieces/Table Décor, Hair Flowers, Chuppah/Arch/Arbor, Aisle/Pews/Chairs, Decor, Leis, Flower Girl Basket, Flower Shower, Specialty Lighting, Napkin Flowers, Backdrops, Arrangements, etc.)
Entertainment: up to 7% of Budget (Ceremony, Cocktail Hour, Reception, Sound Equipment, Bands, Musicians, Performers, Dancers, DJ, MC)
Wedding Coordination : up to 3% of Budget
Ceremony: Up to 3% of budget (Ceremony Location Fee, officiant Fee/Donation, Rentals, Marriage License, Keepsake Certificate/Ketubah, Ring Bearer Pillow, Aisle Runner, Unity Candle or Sand, Wands, Bubbles, Butterflies, Dove Release, Ceremony Items, Specialty Linens like chair covers and sashes, etc.), Permit Fees
Stationery up to 2% Percent (Announcements, Invitations, Response Cards, Postage, Thank You Notes, Personalized Stationery, Ceremony Programs, Reception Menus, Place Cards, Table Cards, Calligraphy, Timelines, Guest Book/Wishing Well/Portrait/Scrapbook)
Transportation: up to 2% of Budget (Limousine/Car Rental, Shuttle for Guests, Valet Parking, Self-Parking, Get-Away Car, Horse and Carriage)
Wedding Rings: up to 2% of Budget (Engraving, Engagement Rings, Wedding Bands)
Gifts and Guests' Goodies up to 1% of Budget: (Attendants’ Gifts, Bride/Groom Gift, Guest Favors, Welcome Bags or Boxes)
Miscellaneous up to 1%: (Vanity Baskets for Bathrooms, Bridal Emergency Kit, Card Collection Box/Birdcage/Basket, Wedding Insurance, Memory Tributes)
***Taxes, Gratuities, Service Charges: These should be incorporated into the fees in each category.
Always remember that the wedding is a celebratory event and a marriage is a lifetime, so be sure to keep your focus on the health of your relationship. The budget and the details should never supersede the significance of celebrating this momentous milestone occasion with the people you care about most. Arguing or ruining relations over wedding plans defeats the whole purpose of the actual celebration. Stay positive and keep an optimistic outlook about planning your wedding and the big day itself. Things are bound to go wrong, even with most careful execution. How you deal with it will either make it a positive memory you can laugh about or one that can ruin your day. Only you will know that a detail is overlooked, your guests will have no idea. But, if they see you are stressed and upset, then they will be, too. Their energy will feed off of yours. Keep in mind that even the most expensive or beautiful wedding is meaningless unless you have a great time sharing it with your loved ones. This is the beginning of your journey together as a married couple, so have a realistic budget and enjoy every moment of your dream day!